The Sketch

Time for another “decent” day out caching after a couple of relatively lightweight days. Candleford suggested we could go and have a hack at poshrule’s peloton. I’d so far only done a few of them (see Yaxley Peloton) but she’d done all of them. But she volunteered to drive me around anyway, on the basis that it’d be a bit of a laugh. And anyway, the weather looked like it would be gorgeous for February. That was about as much of a plan as we had. I wouldn’t normally do series as drive-bys, however a couple of things made me agree. One was that Candleford offered to drive, obviously. The other was that there are a couple of long stretches at the south which are basically linear, not circular. That means that both walking and cycling would be tricky. Both methods would leave a long old hack back with no caches. Bum to that! So drive-bys it is.

I had in my mind that we might get those two stretches done for a total of, if we were lucky, a hundred or more. That was based on Candleford’s estimation. I’ve never really done drive-bys before en masse, so have little concept of the typical speed. A hundred would be a good day in anyone’s book, especially in February.

Start Me Up!

If ya start me up I’ll never stop! Or something like that.

Long days of caching in February mean starting early. We agreed to meet in Alconbury at 6:30 am. Officially the sun comes up at 7am at this time of year, but on a clear day the light is perfectly adequate at 6:30. As is often the case, I couldn’t get to sleep. A long day at work, plus the excitement of a caching day, meant I couldn’t get settled. I did manage about 6 hours in bed but I was bolt upright by 3am, to be honest. So there was some thumb-twiddling and generally time wasting before giving in and getting out of bed at 4:45. I’d planned 5am originally, so this meant I didn’t wake everyone else up with my alarm.

So kecks on, and off we go from home at 5:10. I made my normal stop at the BP garage for fuel, sweeties and drinks. It was surprisingly busy. I knew I was a bit early, but I thought I could grab a couple in Alconbury before meeting Candleford if time allowed.

Time did allow. It gave me 15-20 minutes. That was enough to grab a multi-cache where I basically guessed the solution. The arithmetic on the cache page offered only a couple of possible locations. I picked one at random, zoomed in on street view, and saw something matching the hint. So that was good enough to convince me it was the right place. It was also enough to grab a Village Hall series puzzle for the Village Hall that I was going to leave my car at. Rockin’ and rollin’ – and when I pulled into the car park, Candleford was there.

The First Stretch

The first group of caches was a linear arrangement of 42 along the road from Alconbury to Old Weston. About an hour into this I began to think we’d be getting a big total. After an hour we’d found more than 20. We reached Old Weston, having made 42 finds along the road, in just 2 hours. That put me 44 caches up and it was only 8:30am. Blimey!

The path from here to the second stretch was a bit awkward. That’s mainly because RAF Molesworth is in the way. You have to drive right around it, and the roads aren’t great. We grabbed a couple more caches in Molesworth itself before looping back around the north of the airbase and rejoining the peloton series at Clopton.

The Second Stretch

This took us on a clockwise loop from Clopton with a little offshoot over to Titchmarsh and back. It kept being really fast. We parked up for lunch after this stretch at around 11:30. That’s fine for lunch because we’d been going for 5 hours. In those five hours I’d logged 107 caches (plus the two I did at the start). So, we were well past 100 finds and it wasn’t even midday. It’s madness, I tell you! Utter madness.

So whilst we were having our halftime break I think I finally convinced myself that 200 was on the cards. I just needed to pick caches for the afternoon that would leave enough from the series to make it worthwhile coming back. That meant planning caches so that I’d got self-contained loops remaining. That makes them easier for either walking or biking.

More of it

Back on the trail for the afternoon, we drove further west until we reached Tansor. This was pretty much the furthest we got from my car. On the way there some shenanigans where it turned out I’d pasted the wrong corrected coordinates onto a couple of the caches. As a result, Candleford had more on the list than I did. Anyway, it took me a while to figure out what was going on. It turned out to be simple. Tansor was a bit of a lollipop on the end of our driving stick. When we were done there we retraced our steps.

What I’d got left to do of the series was a couple of quite small loops (i.e. less than 50 caches) plus one humungous loop. They interlocked with each other so that completing any particular loop in full would take a big chunk away from the next day. We decided therefore to take all of the “big” loop apart from those parts of it which were also in the smaller loops. I hope that makes sense. It did when I thought of it. Anyway, that plan meant a couple of long one-way stretches, with a u-turn and a hack around to somewhere else.

While we were in this section I began counting forward and planning where we’d end up. There was a tiny loop close to Stilton. I reckoned if we did all the caches up to there, plus a couple from the tiny loop, that would make exactly 200. So that’s what we did.

OK, Enough Now

By the time we’d finished the 200 it was after 4pm, so we gave up and drove our way back to where I’d left my car. It was where I’d left it, and doesn’t seem to have been tampered with. That’s a good result. Back at the plot, when I got back to the car we’d made 200 finds and had spent about ten-and-half hours doing them. That’s a pretty ridiculous rate to have sustained for so long. I doubt I’ll break that one-day record any time soon.

The caches I found from the peloton are shown on the map below. You can see it’s quite a lot. The day actually contributed three-fold to my caching statistics. Firstly, 200 finds is by far and away the most I’ve done in a single day. Secondly, I needed 39 finds to finish the Shifty-Fifty Challenge for this day. And finally, I’d never found a cache in the UK on February 26th before. I had previous finds, but only outside the UK. 2 in Ireland and 9 in Japan, as it happens. So tick, ticky tick-tick, from Tickettyville.